The hack prompted the Colonial Pipeline to shut down some operations, leading to panic buying and gasoline shortages in the United States.

A motorist peers from his truck as he waits in a lengthy line of vehicles queuing up to enter a gasoline station in Durham, North Carolina, US on May 12, 2021.
A motorist peers from his truck as he waits in a lengthy line of vehicles queuing up to enter a gasoline station in Durham, North Carolina, US on May 12, 2021. (Reuters)

US largest fuel pipeline has restarted operations, days after it was forced to shut down by a gang of hackers.

The disruption of Colonial Pipeline caused long lines at gas stations in the Southeast due to distribution problems and panic-buying, draining supplies at thousands of gas stations.

Colonial initiated the restart of pipeline operations late on Wednesday, saying in a statement that “all lines, including those lateral lines that have been running manually, will return to normal operations.”

But it will take several days for deliveries to return to normal, the company said.

The operator came online as DarkSide, the hacking group blamed for crippling the pipeline company, claimed responsibility for breaking into three more companies, saying it was publishing hundreds of gigabytes of data from a Brazilian battery firm, a Chicago-based tech company, and a British engineering firm.

Colonial Pipeline plans not to pay the ransom demanded by the hackers who encrypted their data, sources familiar with the company's response told Reuters on Wednesday. 

Instead, the company is working closely with law enforcement and US cybersecurity firm FireEye to mitigate the damage and restore operations.

READ MORE: Colonial Pipeline shutdown sparks fear of US petrol shortage

Panic buying and shortages

In the meantime, drivers have been finding gas stations with little or no gas in some Southeast states.

The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45 percent of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them. 

The hackers didn't take control of the pipeline operations, but Colonial shut the pipeline down to contain the damage.

The attack raised concerns, once again, about the vulnerability of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

“What you’re feeling is not a lack of supply or a supply issue. What we have is a transportation issue,” said Jeanette McGee, spokeswoman for the AAA auto club. “There is ample supply to fuel the United States for the summer, but what we’re having is an issue with is getting it to those gas stations" because the pipeline is down.

READ MORE: Major US pipeline remains largely shut down after cybersecurity attack

The pipeline runs from the Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan region, but states in the Southeast are more reliant on it. Other parts of the country have more sources to tap. For example, a substantial amount of fuel is delivered to states in the Northeast by massive tankers.

In North Carolina, 65 percent of gas stations were out of fuel, according to Gasbuddy.com, a technology firm that tracks real-time fuel prices across the country.

North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper urged people on Wednesday to only buy gas if their tank is low, and to report any instances of price gouging.

“This news is another reason people do not need to panic buy gas right now unless they really need it,” he tweeted after Colonial announced it was restarting the pipeline.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies